I return to my childhood and, within my mind’s ear, I can clearly hear my mother’s oft-repeated lament, “May you, one day, have children of your own.” Her wisdom within that sentence—also heard by her from her mother—is prophetic and profound. And possibly a curse? Becoming a parent is arguably the only way one can truly appreciate the sacrifices made by their parents.
There are some who devote their entire lives to giving to their children that which they, as children, did not have. Some discover, much to their dismay, that their children don’t want what the parent is trying so hard to provide while others simply take it for granted. Some people, usually when they’re grown, do realize and appreciate the sacrifices made for them by their parents. Still, for the most part, parents don’t make sacrifices for their children for any type of recognition. They do it because they love their kids.
A friend of mine once asked me, “Do you think (your child) appreciates what you do for him?”
I said, “I don’t care. I don’t do it to be appreciated. I do it because I love them.”
This also brings to mind the boyfriend of one of my more recent wives. They have been a couple for about 10 years. Throughout this time, he has made countless daily sacrifices for my son. He’s driven him to school day-after-day for years. He takes time to try to help him with his problems and even acts as a referee in disagreements between my son and his mother. I often wonder if they know how lucky they are to have a gentleman like him in their lives. I’m sure there’s a lot more he’d rather be doing with his daily life than chauffeuring his girlfriend’s kid around and seeing that he’s fed and taken care of. Yet he makes those little, daily sacrifices for a child who is not even his.
Getting to the heart of it.
And to me, it’s those little daily sacrifices, the small extra-efforts, made by parents, that really add up to making a life for our children.
Recently I was remembering my father, who passed away about 15 years ago. I reminisced about a Thanksgiving Day way back in the grainy, sepia-toned days of the last millennium. I was probably about seven- or eight-years-old. My father was carving the turkey and he asked if I wanted to try a taste of some of the giblets; I think it was the heart. Perhaps he wanted to see if I’d be grossed out, I’m not really sure. But I accepted his offer and took a small bite. I liked it! Turns out, the heart was one of my father’s favorite treats, too. It is something to which he looked forward each year but, at my young age, that wasn’t something I considered.
I have nebulous memories of trundling through the kitchen on holiday afternoons—my little tummy rumbling with anticipation of the upcoming meal—and asking my father if I could have the heart. I do not recall a time when he denied me. One Thanksgiving, many decades later, I was preparing the turkey for serving and I popped the heart into my mouth. I recalled how much of a treat it was so many years prior and I remembered that my father had loved it, too. I realized then that, in reality, there were only two days a year that we had a turkey; Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. And quite often I sought out my father and the giblets before the meal. I somehow knew that he’d always liked them but I didn’t have the wherewithal to consider that. And he always gave the piece to me, missing out on one of his favorites.
I often see, especially in today’s permissive society, children demanding things of their parents and the adults actually giving in to these demands as a matter of course. I never had the audacity to make a demand of my parents, preferring to have my skull remain attached to my neck. But I know they, without reservation, lovingly made every effort to give us all they could afford to give us; and did all they could do to give us a happy life.
Tears and skinny ankles.
I remember one afternoon in the early 1960’s, two of my sisters were heading off with their Brownie Troop on an excursion to some distant ice rink. Being raised in Southern California made ice skating an extreme rarity. Actually, I don’t think I’d even seen an ice rink at that young age. The two neighborhood girls were also in the troop and their mothers were den mothers (or whatever they call them in Girl Scouts). So, since the mom’s were on the trip, that meant that their two sons, my friends, were also going on the trip. That left me as the only kid of our age group, in our little rural neighborhood, to not be invited to the adventure.
They all loaded into the neighbor’s big sedan and left me standing in the dust. As if it were yesterday I can still recall walking home and then into one of my sister’s bedrooms to find my mother performing some chore. She asked, “Did they leave?”
Tears welled in my eyes and I blurted, “I wanted to go, too!”
Without hesitation she brushed past me and hurried to find her purse. She found it and began digging to the bottom. There she discovered a quarter and a dime, the exact amount needed to ice skate that day. She quickly went to the phone and called ahead to another neighbor a few blocks away. Luckily for me, the carload of kids had just arrived there to pick up another Brownie. My mom asked them if they’d swing back down that street to pick me up by the side of the road. She hung up, gave me the coins and briskly ushered me to the front door. Giving my bottom a push out the door, she said, “Run across the field and wait for them next to the Pickhart’s driveway.”
Off I ran, my feet as fleet as Mercury’s. I flew past weeds and clumps of tall sweet grass. I leapt over swells, small depressions and obliterated clods of dirt. I made the couple-hundred yard distance in what felt like less than one second. I arrived just as the car pulled to a stop. The door swung open and I wedged myself into the congested back seat; squeezing in with all of the other kids.
I enjoyed my day at the rink as best as I could with two skinny, not-so-strong ankles. I had a great time with my two friends as our sisters skated with their group. My most vivid memories of that day were them driving away without me, my tears shooting from my eyes in front of my mother, her rifling through her purse and then pressing the coins into my palm, almost flying over the field and my ankles bowing inward as I tried to skate.
Thanks, Mom and Dad.
It is such a vivid memory from my childhood, yet I have no recollection of ever having said thank you to my mom. Sure, I was quickly hustled from the house to meet the car, but I wonder if I ever thanked her when I got home. The effort she made—and so quickly!—is now not lost on me, but it may have been back then. It is a vivid example of the definition of love. She didn’t hesitate. She acted quickly and lovingly to ensure that I wasn’t left alone and had fun with my friends that day; made sure I wasn’t disappointed. But did I thank her or just consider it another thing my mom was supposed to do for me?
From time to time, in my senior years, I’ve tried to tell my mom how grateful I am for those little things she did for me. She smiles and shrugs away my words. There are things which parents do for their kids which can never be repaid. Most often they’re the little, everyday gestures that are soon forgotten in the minutia of life. I’m happy that I can remember some of those specific instances and, even though I probably did not express the proper gratitude at the time, from the perspective of my own advancing years, I can appreciate their love. I think all I can do at this point is to try to pass along that love to others.
Are there any of those small incidents in your life that you can vividly remember?